1. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    What is it with people and swords?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by James Berkley, Feb 15, 2012.

    What it says on the tin. I see constant mention of swords when people talk about or write, fantasy or anything in a medieval like setting, even science fiction on occasion. It would makes sense if it was about time periods and settings where swords where more common (i.e. Napoleonic Calvary, roman legions) but its not. Most people did not carry swords, and they where not the most effective weapons. So why do people have this love for the sword?
     
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  2. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    Do I have a gun? Yes. Do I carry it on me? Sometimes.

    Does everyone? No.

    The sword was common to medieval times.

    They didn’t have automatic rifles or shotguns.

    They had swords.

    So would one bear the sword?

    Maybe they picked up a kitchen knife?

    It doesn’t matter. Rope, hands, knives or sword were effective weapons.

    But the sword was the most intimidating.

    It meant war.
     
  3. Question
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    Question Active Member

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    Why not? People have always been fascinated by weapons. Swords especially have been used in literature and stories for a very long time. I think lots of people think of swords kind of like star wars as well(yep I went their) in the fact that their more of a gentlemans weapon or something compared to a gun. This is probably shown in samaruai view of swordsmanship and also probably renesaunce fencers. People used swords in medeival times, knights fought constantly with them, so I would say that they are perfectly relevant in a medieval setting. I mean maybe the emphasise on a sword in a story could be overdone to the point of being trite but this is probably true with anything. I think the ability of swordmanship is a dying if not lost art and people dream of what it would be like to actually use a sword. And I would assume most of us write about what we dream of doing or imagine what it would be like. Though I am a little biased because I too am fascinated by swords.
     
  4. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese Contributing Member

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    Hi James,

    I'd understand this if you were talking about, say, historical fiction. And you're right for the most part, swords were less common than spears and axes during the medieval eras, and were less common than gunpowder weaponry in the renaissance eras.

    But asking why people put swords into fantasy genres is like asking why people put dragons, elves, or magic in them. None of them make sense right? Well that's why it's called fantasy.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Bladed weapons are in some ways more dangerous than firearms in close quarters. A gun has one killing vector at any moment in time. control the direction the barrel is pointing, and you have largely neutralized the attack.

    Blades are more dangerous in close quarters because in addition to the point, there are cutting edges along the length, and no place the weapon can be easily immobilized with an unarmored grip from freedom of motion in several directions.

    There is also, of course, the phallic symbolism of swords, although the same can also be said about guns.
     
  6. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    Firstly I'll ditto Question's reply...couldn't have said it better myself. I'll expand abit by saying that they're just more ineresting than guns. Modern warfare is so dull to explain/read as it relies to much on technology rather than skill. Swords are just seen as relying on more skill and hard training meaning a good background story to! To expand abit more - reading about an army or group fighting in close combat with swords chopping and slashing everywhere, arrows flying and the clash of steel is very exciting. I read books by Mathew Reilly, Tom Clancey and Andy Mcnab...really liked them all and they're writing is amazing...but it just didn't compare reading about gun fights in contrast to sword fights.
     
  7. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    I'll agree to a point that a sword relies more on skill than a gun, but any projectile weapon isn't just something that a person can pick up and shoot. The mechanics of firing a rifle accurately goes to within a person's breathing habits, his mentality, and the mechanics of accurately placing a shot so that bullet drop, rotation, recoil, and wind is all accounted for, isn't something to scoff at. But generally, swordsmanship is based on most of the same principals. To be successful, one has to have their mind focused, their entire body synchronized, and their focus has to be all-inclusive. It's simply hard to describe what goes on when a trigger's pulled, but the art (because yes, it is an art) of swordplay is a beautiful, gory scene that can be both seen and experienced with equal detail. Swords have had their places of honor amongst the population, and it's sad to see the ideals of swordsmanship diminish, but as much of a hypocrite I'm making of myself, technology doesn't dwell when there's progress to be made, and everyone can't afford to stay in the past. It's connection in writing? Also an ancient art that dates back to around the same era (Well, it was existent before, but during the Renaissance, where swordplay was considered an art, writing became public), it's kept a close tie to swords, both physically and symbolically.
     
  8. Enzo03
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    Enzo03 Member

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    Another way to look at it:

    It's because swords are cool.

    Yeah, I know, that's probably a very, very bad answer for a very good question, but think about it for a bit.

    We have sports cars and supercars which can go very fast. They are almost unanimously fascinating to the point that you'll sometimes even see them gratuitously inserted into a story, such as the Corvette that just happens to be thrown in for Orson Scott Card's book, Empire. Are they the best cars for every situation? Absolutely not - many of them get abysmal gas mileage and some of them, like nearly all Lamborghini cars, are difficult to get into. The Lotus Elise has no power steering. Does everyone have them? No. Do Aston Martins get put into James Bond movies? Oh yes.
     
  9. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    It’s because it wasn’t much used, was for large stretches of time an exclusive item, that folk have an affinity for it.

    The weapon of kings and princes not oiks and peasants.

    Perhaps ineffectual in battle. And, perhaps, rarely drawn in anger.

    As much a symbol as anything else. And shiny. And not without physical beauty.

    Ludicrous to talk my ‘axe of justice’, my ‘lump of wood of truth.’

    But ‘sword of justice’?, well that’s just sweet and fitting.

    The affinity of our predecessors for the thing is found in their literature. Arthur draws a sword from the stone. etc etc And so, of course, it is passed down to us...and we happily run with it because it is Enzo's Lamborghini and not some family saloon.
     
  10. RusticOnion
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    RusticOnion Contributing Member

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    That's like asking what's with people and knights, they're romanticized, and people of power had them.
     
  11. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Swords are awesome :)

    But the OP has a point. Swords weren't that common in medieval times, and good, functioning ones were even harder to come by. They're a whole lot less practical than the spear or the axe, and if you came up against a knight while wielding one your safest bet would be to run, because, unless you fell on him from a great height, it's not going to make a dent in his armour.
     
  12. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is true, but I guess people would rather read about a strong army wielding swords while wearing shining armor than an army running around with knives, axes and pickaxes. :D
     
  13. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll agree with this. In my first year of college I lived with a guy who had a collection of decorative katana on display in his room; when asked why he collected them he would say it was because they look cool - and they definitely did look cool. :p
     
  14. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    Very true, but do you carry a customized 1911 that is pouching on the 2000 dollar mark? Or do you carry something out of the box that cost less?

    My guess is probably not (unless you do then cool for you).
    Most people probably carry cheaper weapons that might also be more practical.

    No difference then medieval times. There where a lot of weapons that where cheaper, more practical and more effective then swords, yet for some reason I don’t get people have a sword obsession. that's what i am asking about, not they why they are carrying wepons.

    And a lot of records suggest they where nowhere near as common weapons as you seem to suggest. Also, seriously most intimidating?
     
  15. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    This is what I figured.

    With a gun, all you do is just stand there and pull the trigger. Sure there's some legwork involved with running behind trees, overturned carts, broken walls, etc. for cover, but that's about the extent of it. Run for shelter, aim, and pull the trigger a bunch of times.

    With a sword, there's that sense of high craftmanship to it. You'd have to master the proper footwork and effective positions of the sword to block any oncoming attack.

    Plus, I think there's that sense of "it's personal". You have to get very close to your combatant, stare at him in the eyes as you swing the sword at him. With a gun, it's different. You're too busy ducking for shelter and firing off rounds of your own to fully gaze into your opponent's face. Oh, and there's the whole just stand there and pull the trigger while running to shelter. Not much skill there.

    Guns, to me, fit a more Wild Western/modern era. That's why you don't see a lot of guns in a fantasy setting, and I like that. If I wanted to read a book where characters run around shooting each other, I'll read a Western or a war novel.

    Plus, it's just frickin' cool to write your character charging into battle with the most powerful, most badass sword ever and swinging it at the bad guys.
     
  16. Backbiter
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    Backbiter Contributing Member

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    Everyone that stated that swords are cool, I agree with you one hundred percent. I've had a fascination for swords of all kinds since I was a kid.

    I also agree with Cheddar's comment about how it is fantasy, and that there is definitely a lot more freedom in that genre than others.

    ALSO, I feel the same as everyone that's commented about the art of swordplay. It's beautiful, darn it. That much is positive. It's amazing to watch and wonder how the hell they manage to move a blade with such precision and skill. It's much more than just a weapon; it's an instrument of beauty.

    And, again, they're cool.
     
  17. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree absolutely. It's just a shame that they're not presented in their actual beauty - warts and all - rather as a Hollywood-esque caricature.

    It's a bit like horses. A lot of suburban and rural mums want their kids to ride horses because it's outdoorsy. The kid gets on a horse, is told doing this makes it go in that direction, doing that makes it go in this direction, etc. Like a robot. Kid gets on the horse, does that correctly. Falls off. Mums whine, kid cries, stable owner makes their excuses and loses a customer. All of that could have been avoided if, at some point during the tutorial, someone had told the kid and mother that horses aren't robots. They are animals. They have minds of their own.

    Horses are beautiful animals, but so many are put off riding them due to wholly avoidable accidents like this, fuelled by a false interpretation of them. Likewise, swords are a beautiful instrument that many people take up as a hobby but don't follow through because they're disappointed it's not like the movies.

    I'm going to shut up now, because it's late and I have a sneaking suspicion I'm rambling :)
     
  18. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    But you're wrong, in nearly every sense of the word. A marksman needs to control his breathing in a high-stress environment. They have to be aware of the elements around them, beyond the gunfire and explosions, and even down to the wind, the number of rounds they've shot so as not to be caught off-guard when a reload is needed, and they have to know where each bullet's going to end up before they pull the trigger. I can respect your opinion, and I agree completely that guns can be impersonal killing machines, but the mentality of a marksman and the physical prowess they have to command, to be able to run from cover to cover and to have the nerve to still stand and hold their arms and legs steady, is something that I will NOT allow to be bashed.

    A sword may not be as deadly, but a blade is a tool before a weapon. A gun, made solely to kill, is going to do its job, but a blade is much more than a machine of death. It's beauty, its craft, the art of wielding one, it's something that's unlike anything anyone can imagine. In combat, it challenges the foe's wit and strength directly against yours. Its legacy and power have named kings of legend, and owning one is as much of a prize as owning a shield to go along. A sword is much more than a weapon, and just like a pen acts as an extension to the writer, a sword is a part of a swordsman, part of his entity, body and soul.
     
  19. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, you pretty much explained it for me. =) That and made it clear to me what a character who fights with a gun would have to think about.
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is really only true if you're shooting from a relatively long distance. Using guns in those situations does take skill. But if you're at close quarters, with a rather amazing weapon like a sawed-off shotgun, accuracy isn't really necessary. Within fifteen or twenty feet, you just point it in the general direction of your opponent and he's history. They're not much use at longer ranges, though. Still, with a sawed-off shotgun at close range, skill isn't really required. The same is true for machine guns and anything else that can spray a lot of lead around willy-nilly.

    Swords do have the advantage that they don't run out of ammo, but they do take a lot of skill and training to use properly, and you have to face your opponent at close quarters, where he's got as much chance of disemboweling you as you have of decapitating him. Courage is required - you have to get in close and get bloody.
     
  21. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese Contributing Member

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    In light of the current "gun vs. sword" conversation, I think I'll add a little of my own input.

    JPGriffin is ultimately right when it comes to most modern day weaponry, especially military firearms. A large amount of training and discipline is required to use medium to long distance rifles, and such mastery is not to be confused with "point-and-shoot" tactics.

    On the other hand, the OP was talking about swords being used instead of guns in their respective eras. In this case, minstrel's argument holds quite well. In fact, one of the main reasons humanity even decided to use flimsy, inaccurate, one-shot musket rifles over the traditional, faster, longer-ranged bow, is because you could teach a man to shoot a rifle somewhat effectively in an hour. Back then, it literally was point and shoot.

    And of course, in close quarters combat, the only thing a musket rifle is good for is being used like a club. That's where the sword shines.
     
  22. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    The discussion is about swords in periods where they are used.

    But this is too dangerous not to address.

    Please tell me you don’t believe that.

    Next time you have your shotgun out, put a target at about 5 yards. Put in an open or cylinder choke. Then shoot at your target. Your 9 (I am assuming 12 gage and 00 buckshot) pieces of shot will still have a relatively tight pattern. It will hold true with any other shot. It will be impressive, but it will show you that you cannot “ point it in the general direction and expect a lethal hit.

    I support anyone that wants to own and use firearms legally, just please do some shooting and research so you know what your firearm can and cannot do.
     
  23. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    Swords are awesome bro.
     
  24. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    What I want to know is what you had in mind in place of swords. I had once thought the same thing myself and decided to move my entire story into the future or quasi-future to introduce something new, but in changing time era's you lose and you gain some advantages and I didn't want to lose somethings. But in the least, I think there is just something primitively attractive about up close, physical fighting, no matter a sword, a mace, or outright wrestling. The closer, the stronger the feel of personal domination of one person over another.
     
  25. beanbengo
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    Its like in star wars. Everyone has guns, but the jedi's still kick ass!
     

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